Anti-corruption committee chairman: Ermamaa case attempt at making present to Toomas Hendrik Ilves ({{commentsTotal}})

Chairman of the Riigikogu's Anti-Corruption Select Committee, Artur Talvik (Free Party).
Chairman of the Riigikogu's Anti-Corruption Select Committee, Artur Talvik (Free Party). Source: (Siim Lõvi/ERR)

Chairman of the Riigikogu’s anti-corruption committee, Artur Talvik (Free Party), commented on Tuesday that the most recent news in the matter of former president Toomas Hendrik Ilves’ company, OÜ Ermamaa, and Enterprise Estonia showed that the fund’s management had deliberately looked for a way to make a present to the president.

Daily Postimees wrote on Monday that Alajõe wrote a letter on Jan. 24, 2012 to then-minister of economic affairs Juhan Parts (IRL), in which she asked if he would agree to covering the amount of an ineligible grant given to Ermamaa out of state funds.

The problem Alajõe and Ermamaa faced at the time was that the money out of European Union structural funds they had awarded to Ilves’ company had never been put to its intended use, and hence would be deemed ineligible. This meant that the grant would have to be paid back to the European Commission.

Talvik, along with other commentators, is of the opinion that Enterprise Estonia’s management deliberately looked for a way to avoid having to demand the grant back from Ilves’ company in its entirety. Alajõe’s management then suggested in 2012 that Ilves be made to pay back just 10 percent of the grant in 2016, once his second term in office ended. This was reassessed in summer last year, and Ilves indeed asked to pay back just 10 percent of originally just over €190,000.

State’s image continuing to suffer

Enterprise Estonia’s current management once again confirmed this course of action earlier this week, quoting insufficient legal grounds as the reason why they wouldn’t demand more money back from Ilves’ company. The amount that likely will have to be paid back to the commission, apparently some €152,000, will most likely come out of the Estonian state’s funds.

Talvik said on Tuesday that the saga unwinding around Ermamaa had already cost the state a lot in terms of its good image, and that all actions were directed at letting Ermamaa get away. “[Alajõe’s] letter and what it says proves at any rate that they were very deliberately working on a decision to foot the bill, or in other words to make a present to the president,” Talvik told ERR.

He added that the argument that the president received official guests using Ermamaa’s facilities didn’t stick. This was still about the President of the Republic, who already enjoyed great privileges. To make presents to him on top of this was completely unjustified, Talvik said.

“This is sending a signal to all of society that there is indeed some special class that is treated differently from everyday citizens. This is a very bad signal, and will trigger even greater frustration and a negative attitude toward politicians,” Talvik added.

Talvik: Making taxpayer foot the bill just another mistake in the same vein

Enterprise Estonia’s decision announced on Tuesday to not demand any more money back from Ilves’ company was just another mistake in the same vein, Talvik said. “This unfairness stirs up hate directed against all of the state’s institutions. And it certainly creates the impression that Enterprise Estonia is exactly the kind of political organization where politically unpopular people get punished, and the members of the political class awarded money,” he added.

Talvik also criticized former Enterprise Estonia CEO Maria Alajõe’s announcement that she would be a candidate for another round as the Riigikogu’s secretary general, saying that in the light of the latest developments, she was hardly the right person for the job.

President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor (SDE) said earlier that Alajõe’s work as secretary general of the Riigikogu couldn’t be measured by the things she did during her time running Enterprise Estonia. Talvik disagrees with this point of view.

“If an individual was wrong, received punishment for it, and understood the nature of the punishment, then one could say that yes, that individual made a mistake and has understood it,” Talvik said. “But in this case, she made a big mistake on her previous job that she is still trying to justify. This is completely the wrong approach. For Nestor to create this kind of defense loop, that isn’t appropriate,” he added.

Editor: Editor: Dario Cavegn